In order to write this piece I eat dozens upon dozens of desserts each year. In the last two months of the year I go full force, sometimes sampling up to six desserts in one sitting. I know, it’s a hard life. You can thank me later. So, here it is: the 19 best desserts of 2019 in Washington, D.C., with desserts hailing from Italy to Mexico to Afghanistan to Laos, featuring everything from chocolate to pumpkin to meringue to lemon. This is all the dessert porn you could ever ask for.
- High Street Café’s Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate is always a good decision. At High Street Café, it is the best decision. The restaurant’s rich, heady flourless chocolate cake is so velvety and dense when you eat it you will temporarily fade away and go to chocolate heaven. A dollop of dulce de leche adds a silky sweetness, which is a lovely contrast to the bitter chocolate.
- Laos in Town’s Mango Sticky Rice
This may be a a dish you have had before, but at Laos in Town the dish is made with a twist: the sticky rice is cooked with pandan leaves, which add a rose-like flavor to the sweet treat and turns the sticky rice green. It’s glutinous, glutenous and basically what my dreams are made of. You won’t be able to stop eating it.
- Buttercream Bakeshop’s Unicorn Bars
Anything called a unicorn bar is bound to be good. These chewy, sugary blondies are studded with funfetti and then sprinkled with a dusting of edible glitter on top. Scrumptious to eat, beautiful to look at.
- The Four Seasons’ Hazelnut Cake
At the Four Seasons, the dessert is as fancy as the venue. At brunch, you will be presented with a platter of mini hazelnut cakes, financiers, cookies and mini golden cups filled with custard and berries. The hazelnut cake is sinfully good. Layers of hazelnut-infused chocolate mousse and crispy chocolate wafers come elegantly blanketed in chocolate frosting, embellished with gold leaves and crunchy whole hazelnuts. It is like Nutella in a cake form. What could possibly be better than that?
- Baked by Yael’s Birthday Cake Cake pop
I love cake pops. Who doesn’t? The ones at Baked by Yael are especially delightful because they are so decadent and buttery they basically melt in your mouth. The birthday cake one is my favorite just because the filling is uber hearty and the layer of frosting that enrobes the cake is the most cheerful bubblegum pink color, which reminds me of the birthday cakes of my childhood.
- Sticky Fingers’ Little Devil
This is simplicity at its best: fluffy chocolate cake layers sandwich creamy vanilla frosting, all draped with luxurious chocolate frosting. It is a dessert sandwich, a chocolate lover’s dream, a classic American treat.
- Little Sesame’s Dark Chocolate Turkish Coffee Soft Serve
Ice cream made with tahini? Say what? Don’t knock it until you try it. The tahini infused soft serve, which happens to be dairy free, is extra nutty and creamy because of the addition of the tahini. The deep chocolate and coffee flavor make the frozen dessert addictively good; it comes in a crunchy cone with your choice of cocoa nibs or halva dusting as a topping.
- Mola’s Lemon and Olive Oil Ice Cream with Chocolate Shell
Olive oil ice cream may sound bizarre, but in actuality olive oil has a lovely richness and fruitiness that makes it an ideal flavor for ice cream. The addition of lemon makes the ice cream even fruitier with addition of some tartness. The chocolate shell is like the magic shell chocolate sauce you used to buy as a kid – it is poured on and then hardens to form a thick, chocolatey outer layer. This dish is an adventure for your taste buds – the bitter chocolate is a bold contrast for the tart ice cream.
- Karma Modern Indian’s Carrot Halwa
Carrot halwa is a sort of a sweet carrot pudding, where shredded carrots are simmered in milk, then cooked with sugar and cardamom and pistachios. It sounds weird, but the dish is super comforting; it is served warm and has a earthy, toasty flavor profile. The one at Karma Modern Indian is especially fragrant and sugary which makes for the perfect end to a meal.
- Oyamel’s Pastel de Tres Leches con Pina
I get this dessert every time I visit Oyamel. It is so memorable I can conjure up the flavors in my mind in an instant. Buttery cake is drenched in a rum and milk concoction that includes three different forms of milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream, then topped with a dollop of rum infused whipped cream, bejeweled with compressed pineapple and crowned with a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream. It’s a heady, succulent affair to say the least.
- Lapis’ Sharbat
This Afghan pound cake is as elegant as it is tasty and satisfying. Infused with the flavor of orange, and drenched in an orange zest syrup, the dessert is bright and citrusy, the perfect match to a cup of coffee or glass of dessert wine.
- Birch and Barley’s Donuts
These donuts are everything and more. Filled with a thick, luscious huckleberry jam and served with a tahini caramel sauce and za’atar these donuts are fruity but extravagant, fluffy but grandiose. The huckleberry brings in an element of tartness, while the tahini makes the caramel even creamier than usual. A smattering of powdered sugar makes the donuts all the more visually appealing. As I said, everything and more.
- Anju’s Bungeoppang
When you dine at Anju you will be so satiated by the entrees and panchan it will be hard to imagine ordering dessert – but you must. The Bungeoppang is a quirky fish shaped waffle, which comes oozing with melted chocolate ganache. Swirl each bite in the accompanying peanut butter mousse and dip every morsel in the vanilla barley ice cream. Trust me, you will eat every last bit of this waffle, no matter how stuffed to the gills you may be.
- Blue Duck Tavern’s Coffee and Doughnuts
If only every morning could begin with this version of coffee and donuts. With espresso custard, a chicory doughnut, and coconut-kahlua ice cream, this is the best donut and coffee concoction you will ever have. The flavor of coffee enters every aspect of this dessert; the custard is saturated with espresso, the donut is permeated with chicory, and the ice cream is infused with Kahlua.
- Emilie’s Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate chip cookies are my most favorite dessert in the world. The ones at Emilie’s are my current favorite in the D.C. area. Super earthy from the rye, these cookies are dense and woody, sprinkled with a little sea salt for just the right sweet and salt playoff.
- Nina May’s Pumpkin Crème Brulee
The glassy, crunchy burnt sugar top of this crème brulee provides the perfect textural contrast to the luscious pumpkin infused custard in the crème brulee. The hunks of spongy angel food cake that adorn the dish are an added bonus; don’t hesitate to use them to mop up every last smidge of the custard.
- Modena’s Pear Tart
Undoubtedly this will be one of the most beautiful tarts you will ever sample. A crumbly tart shell is stuffed to the brim with shards of sweet pears and festooned edible flowers and crispy wafers. It seems almost too pretty to eat, but once you start indulging you won’t be able to stop.
- Centrolina’s Boccone Dolce
Even the sight of this dessert makes me happy. Two uber crispy discs of crispy meringue are filled with a lavender-infused white chocolate ganache and Concord grape sorbetto. Pastry chef Caitlin Dysart serves this delight over a smear of lime curd, and finishes it with a dusting of fresh lime zest and a pinch of salt. It is floral and tart, crispy and creamy all at once.
- Unconventional Diner’s Sunny Eggs and Bacon
The dessert that tops this list won for two reasons. First, it was unbelievably delicious. The “egg whites” of the dish is comprised of the softest, silkiest coconut panna cotta, the “egg yolks” are a divine passion fruit mousse and the “bacon” is a delicate, crunchy chocolate cookie. The fruity flavors of the dish scream of summertime dreaminess. And second, of all the desserts I sampled this year, this one was the most whimsical and the most creative. I love the visual effect of making a dish look savory while it is in fact sweet, light, and fruity. It is as fun to eat as it is delectable. Hats off to pastry chef Ana Deshaies!